At Brands Hatch, Audi Sport’s Head of Vehicle Design, Stefan Aicher explained to the media in attendance about the construction of an integral part for the driver to compete at the highest level in the DTM – the race seat.
The race seat in question that was talked about belongs to one Filipe Albuquerque, who is currently racing for Team Rosberg in the Audi Financial Services RS 5 DTM this season, alongside Edoardo Mortara, with the Portguese driver looking for his first DTM victory in 2013.
It is an intense and laborious process, as Aicher explained to theCheckeredFlag.co.uk, saying that the materials are relatively inexpensive, as well as the seat weighing only 2 kilograms in total.
“The driver comes to have their fitting, which is quite easy to do, as there is a lot of room for the foam itself. The seats are quite similar, and it takes into consideration the shape of the driver from their hips to their legs. It also depends on the driving position the driver has, whether they are sitting straight on or slightly to the left.
“The way we do it is that the driver comes for the fitting and we have a relatively simple seat to see how it works out. We either use a poly-urethane support or a big plastic bag with small marbles in it to see how the shape works out.”
Aicher went on to explain about the fact that the driver then has to stay still for approximately 30 to 45 minutes, and they have to make sure that that the seat is not compromised in any way. This means the driver would have to have their feet on the pedals and their hands on the steering wheel for the duration.
He also went onto mention that the drivers are kept hydrated in the hot temperatures in the cockpit, as they will be sweating profusely throughout the process, due to the fact the seat form material will increase in temperature in its initial formation.
The seat is then extracted and then any excess material that is not needed is cut away, before the next fitting, where the driver is using the full range of movement to ensure that clearance on the arms is there to not comprise their driving during practice, qualifying and the race itself.
After this, the engineers set about making the mechanical parts that will house the seat belts, as well as a specially built carbon tube that feeds air into the back of the seat itself, where fresh air is then fed in to the back of the driver, to help keep temperatures in the compact area down where the driver sits.
We then asked how long it actually takes from start to finish for the build of this very important part of the cockpit to be built, which Aicher was more than happy to explain: “We need 2 to 3 hours in Ingolstadt to make the proper test seat itself, before moving on to testing itself. You need to start the process from a static point in the workshop, before the driver is experiencing all the bumps and forces that come with driving the car, where the true clearance that is required becomes noticeable on the track.
“The engineers go to the track as well, where fine tuning of the seat itself takes place, with the seat maybe needing less or more material in certain areas. It is an ongoing process, where a full day’s testing helps to finalize the proper configuration of the seat itself for the driver.”
He then went on to explain that it takes approximately 3 to 4 hours for this process to take place, otherwise the driver will not feel fully comfortable in the car. Some of the younger drivers will spend, according to Aicher, about one hour, and will then find that they have ongoing issues with making the seat as perfect as possible as the season progresses.
Mattias Ekstrom is mentioned by the Head of Vehicle Design as a very dedicated individual when it comes to his seat, saying that the Swedish 2-time DTM Champion will spend all night in the factory to get it just right, as well as British driver Jamie Green, with both drivers really understanding the fact that the seat is an important facet of their driving.
Making the race seat is truly an engineering work of art, as the tolerances that the driver feels can be changed according to how it feels in such a bespoke vehicle, with millimeters of material being changed here or there at any time at the driver’s request. There is a major change when it comes to endurance racing, such as at Le Mans, where compromises have to be made, with drivers opting to have inlays on their racing suits to make comfort a major priority, when it comes to three drivers sharing the same car over 24 hours.
Every seat itself is constructed again at the beginning of every season, and is digitally scanned into a CAD program, so that way if a driver’s car suffers major damage, such as Adrien Tambay’s car catching fire just four laps into the season opener at Hockenheim, the seats can be reproduced exactly to the same specification.
This just is one of the many bespoke components that makes up the 1100 kilograms of one Audi RS 5 DTM, where Ingolstadt’s drivers look to carry on their good form going into the next round of the series, which will be held at the Red Bull Ring in just under two weeks’ time, where Mortara will look to repeat his dominance in the Tirol as in 2012….